Things about Working as an Architect I Wish I’d Known When I Was 25 (Part I)
When we finish university and start working, we start out from zero. Our dreams are reset. “I’m going to show them what I’m made of”, I told myself when I started my first work placement.
I immediately realised that the rules of the game are different from those at university. To ensure my continuity in a studio, I not only had to be able to use computer programmes and hand in good drawings; I also needed to gain experience, to specialise and, equally if not more importantly, to develop my personal skills – to be punctual, be good at things like prioritising tasks and working in a team.
Not showing those skills could mean not being offered the chance to keep working in the same place. But you’re not taught that at architecture school.
From my point of view, it’s very important, right from the start of your working life, to knuckle down to different tasks that will let you find out what you might be good at. When I started, I didn’t know my strengths, but the different tasks I was faced with got me involved in commercial and management-related activities (among others) and helped me discover my aptitudes.
After an inevitable initial process of learning and adaptation, I even ended up enjoying doing certain things which at the beginning I found very difficult. That made me understand the importance of confronting those aspects of the profession that scared me, those that made me feel insecure, in the knowledge that in time they would gradually become less intimidating. Picking up the telephone to arrange something, for example, was for me absolutely terrifying. But with practice, I even got to like it.
I’ve always aspired to be (and to know when I need to be) patient and level-headed. Many of us have experienced situations that made us consider the pros and cons of throwing in the towel, especially when subjected to a lot of stress or if our professional activity generates a lot of personal benefits.
When we feel sorry for ourselves and listen to the little voice in our head saying, “I don’t’ have to put up with this” or “this isn’t fair”, we may end up straying from our true objectives. Once, a long time ago, I walked out of a job because (among other reasons) I found it very hard to withstand workplace harassment by one of my bosses. But after making that decision, I didn’t feel any better, and I immediately realised my reaction had done nothing to help me learn how to find a solution to the situation.
Later, in another job, destiny placed another conflictive situation in my path. This time I decided to handle it differently. I chose not to get emotional. Instead, I just avoided responding to the provocations and continued to work hard, completing my hours and fulfilling my obligations. I decided not to run away. Months later, my effort was rewarded.
I learned that it’s important to face up to difficulties in order not to make the same mistakes. Strangely enough, the same stumbling block seems too arise over and over again, several times, in different forms, until you finally overcome it. So the sooner you deal with it, the better, regardless of whether you’re a freelancer or a salaried employee. I’ve experienced both types of work – being under contract and doing my VAT return every three months. I’ll tell you about that in another post. In the meantime, I’ll keep practicing being patient and level-headed.